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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Trade Deadline Updates

With the July 31st trade deadline mere days away, Twins fans have their eyes and ears glued to a swirling rumor mill to see what might become of some of their players. The team is in disarray and inevitably in selling mode, after moving to a season worst 18 games under .500 after another shellacking by the White Sox on Tuesday.

Twins fans should temper their expectations however as the organization is not in a good position to get outstanding prospects for most of its moveable and desirable pieces. Here is the latest on the Twins rumor mill.

Twins GM Terry Ryan has been playing his cards close to his chest as the deadline approaches, asking for high prices for all his moveable assets in the form of high ceiling, close to major league ready power arms. The Twins are eager to move Justin Morneau but inconsistent form, injury worries, horrifying lefty/righty splits and the Twins unwillingness to eat any of his $14 million salary mean he will likely stay in a Twins uniform for the time being.

Ryan has indicated that every player on the Twins roster is available for a price, specifically referring to Josh Willingham. Willingham is in the midst of a career year, having clubbed 25 HR, 72 RBI and produced a .274/.385/.568 slash line through Tuesday putting him on pace for 41 HR, whilst cutting down on SO and increasing his BB%. The price on Willingham is said to be ‘laughable’ according to Jason Stark and why shouldn’t it be? Trading the Hammer would be an ill conceived move unless they could return at least one blue chip prospect. Willingham is signed to what now appears a bargain 3 year $21 million salary and has indicated a desire to finish his playing career in Minnesota.

The likelihood that Francisco Liriano gets traded remains extremely high but his decimation by the White Sox on Monday night means teams are still wary of his inconsistency. Look for him to be traded after his final scheduled start before the trade deadline on Sunday, particularly if he pitches well at home against the Indians. Despite Liriano’s value being inhibited by a poor start it was given a boost by the Phillies signing Cole Hamels to a 6 year, $144 million extension, leaving Liriano as the best, if erratic, left handed starter available at the deadline. Again don’t expect much of a return on Liriano; he is essentially a 3 month loaner, as he will become a free agent at the end of the season.

The most intriguing trade chip remains Denard Span. The Reds are said to be high on Span, looking for a consistent leadoff hitter. Span’s numbers are up on his last two seasons, he currently owns a .282/.345/.385 line with 29 XBH and 9 SB. Span is signed to a team friendly deal that his him earning $11.25 million over the next two seasons, with a club option for 2015. The Reds are said to be considering a package surrounding young lefty power arm Tony Cingrani who is a combined 10-3 with a 1.62 ERA and 130 SO in 111 innings pitched between High A Bakersfield and AA Pensacola. At 22, Cingrani would seem to indeed be a worthy prize, but due to the nature of Span’s contract it seems the Ryan is not willing to part with him merely for Cingrani. In a market where Juan Pierre and Shane Victorino are also available on a short term loan basis, the Twins seem to be pricing themselves out of the trade market for Span.

Ultimately it seems as if Liriano might be the only significant piece moved at the deadline. I would personally urge the Twins to trade Span if they can get a high caliber power lefty pitcher. With the emergence of Ben Revere and Aaron Hicks finally fulfilling some of his promise at AA New Britain (.274/.372/.434 with 9 HR 43 RBI and 22 SB) the Twins should reap the rewards Span can bring. The Twins have never had difficulty producing outstanding outfielders and with Hicks, Joe Benson (despite a very poor year) and Oswaldo Arcia waiting in the wings should cash in if they can take advantage of the Reds need for a leadoff hitter. If the Twins kept Span, would they be a competing team in ’13 with the constant sludge they trot out to the bump every day? I think not. Terry Ryan, It’s time to make some difficult, but it the long term rewarding decisions for this ball club, go get some arms.

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